Coffee and interview with DunneFrankowski30 Apr 2015
Co-created by London’s leading creative coffee duo, DunneFrankowski, the Coffee Masters competition kicks off today at the London Coffee Festival. Twenty baristas from around the world start competing today to take the title of original Coffee Master. We catch up with Vic Frankowski and Rob Dunne to discuss the competition, the state of coffee in London, what Vic wears to interviews and Rob’s general heroics.
LBC: You two have been collaborating for years now. When do you first work together?
Rob: I arrived in London on horseback, carrying everything I own in a satchel. It was late 2010. I visited Postcard Teas where Tim d'Offay pointed me to two cafes that took their tea and coffee seriously. He suggested I visit Mr Victor Frankowski at Tapped and Packed, now TAP Coffee, and Ben Townsend of Espresso Room. As Tapped was a closer walk from Postcard Teas, I never made it to Espresso Room.
Vic: We had Guinness, took apart a coffee machine and a few weeks later Rob started working with me at the Climpsons and Sons coffee stall on Broadway Market.
LBC: How do you work together? How do your skills compliment each other?
Vic: I'm not sure if I should really tell you our trade secrets. Rob is obviously better with attention to detail and presentation. I'm usually the one that says, right, we are going from point A to point B by this time. Rob then questions how we have to get there and fills in the gaps.
Rob: I think we both see possibilities in areas others do not. Similarly I think we are both quite driven and determined to make things work. The things I am useless at, Vic is better at and willing to do, and vice versa. Timekeeping is something I care not to consider in life, so without Vic I may never turn up on dates booked in.
LBC: Tell us about the Coffee Masters competition and how it come about.
Rob: The Coffee Masters arose from the success of the MILK BATTLE we created for Cavendale at last year’s London Coffee Festival. An opportunity arose this year to create a format which was more audience-facing. Hoping to engage the crowds we co-created the concept, alongside Allegra Events, of a barista battle which would demonstrate the tasks undertaken by baristas on a daily basis, hopefully presenting a more culinary side to what a barista is trained to do. We also wished to award the winning barista with a substantial cash price.
LBC: What differentiates it from other competitions?
Rob: It is a fast paced head-to-head live format which takes place over five disciplines, each disciplines presenting a different skill necessary to work as a quality lead barista in any cafe or coffee-based business. The difference is that we are trying to refresh the aesthetics of the competition format. The bar layout is particularly different and attractive.
LBC: What are your ambitions with the Coffee Masters? Global dominance?
Vic: Let's try to get through the first one first.
LBC: Alright. Vic, where are you these days? What are you working on?
Vic: Well right now I'm answering your questions whilst sitting in my bathrobe, but my day-to-day is a bit busier than that. We have got several projects which we are working on, but if I told you what they were, then people would know what we do and we can't have that. I’ll tell you this though, it's not a cafe in London.
LBC: And you Rob? Tell us about Old Spike.
Rob: I began working with Old Spike Roastery in December, on a consultancy level as a friend of the co-founder Richard Robinson, who I knew from Protein. It wasn't long before the end of January that I became a partner, joining both Richard and Cemal Ezel on their coffee journey which had such an amazing cause. To make coffee and sell it knowing you can have a direct impact on another person’s life, is huge. Old Spike Roastery is a non-profit social enterprise, based in Peckham, we are selling coffee with a conscience, buying speciality green benefiting farms and directly benefiting the local community also.
LBC: Where are you guys drinking coffee in London these days?
Vic: I have become somewhat like yourself Derek and I don't venture outside my locality (Editor’s note: there is no truth to this - I spend each and every day traveling to the furthest corners of London in search of the perfect cup). To be perfectly honest I've been drinking more coffee at home in the morning. When I venture out I go local to Tina, we salute you or Esters, if I venture out further I go to Lyle's, Craft Coffee or CREAM.
Rob: I frequent a few watering holes, I’m like a wild animal in the savanna, I will roam some distances just for a drink but mostly the chat that should be apart of my refreshment time. To name the top dogs: James Low at Lyle's, the crew at Workshop Fitzrovia, Embassy East, Craft Coffee, Brooklyn Coffee - basically any place that has the time to chat while they prepare drinks.
LBC: Is there anything that you think the speciality coffee industry in London is missing?
Vic: A freelance barista service which we are properly launching next month.
Rob: More bars that feel and act like bars, more places where the staff are actually happy or allowed to engage with the customers. Sadly I see a repeating style. Cafes rarely feel relaxed, hence I prefer the tea industry’s approach to service. Coffee is often too hasty - cafe’s should slow things down, concentrate on better service and charge more.
LBC: Where do you see the industry headed? What does it look like to you in ten years' time?
Rob: Maybe in ten years I'll be bold and say I will be closer to have my ideal hospitality-lead business or at least involved in its creation, that being a boutique hotel. I would like my ideal coffee service, tea service, cocktail and food all under one roof. I would also really like a bar again, but the freedom to create and do alternative things within the coffee industry are currently too exciting to stop at one prospect.
Coffee Masters kicks off today at the London Coffee Festival. More details on their website.